Europe’s epochal elec­tions

In­sur­gen­cies and le­gacy par­ties alike are push­ing back against mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism

The Washington Times Daily - - COMMENTARY - By Daniel Pipes Daniel Pipes (, @DanielPipes) is pres­i­dent of the Mid­dle East Fo­rum.

“The nov­elty and mag­ni­tude of Europe’s predica­ment make it dif­fi­cult to un­der­stand, tempt­ing to over­look, and nearly im­pos­si­ble to pre­dict. Europe marches us all into terra incog­nita.” That’s how I closed an ar­ti­cle 10 years ago on the topic of Is­lam’s fu­ture in Europe. Now, thanks to elec­tions in France and Aus­tria, an an­swer is emerg­ing: Euro­peans ap­pear not ready to “go gen­tle into that good night” but will “rage, rage against the dy­ing of the light.”

True, the elites, as sym­bol­ized by Ger­many’s Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel, re­main in deep de­nial about the is­sues of im­mi­gra­tion, Is­lamism and iden­tity. What I call the Six Ps (politi­cians, press, po­lice, prose­cu­tors, pro­fes­sors and pri­ests) refuse to ac­knowl­edge the fun­da­men­tal so­ci­etal changes and enor­mous ten­sions their poli­cies are creat­ing. But — and this is the news to re­port

— the masses are start­ing to make their views heard not just in fu­tile protest but dra­mat­i­cally to change their coun­tries’ di­rec­tion.

The French cen­ter-right po­lit­i­cal party, the Repub­li­cans, just held its first-ever U.S.-style pri­mary for the position of pres­i­dent of the coun­try. In the first of two rounds, seven can­di­dates, in­clud­ing a for­mer pres­i­dent (Ni­cholas Sarkozy) and two for­mer prime min­is­ters (Alain Juppe and Fran­cois Fil­lon), vied to place in the top two slots.

For months, Mr. Juppe and Mr. Sarkozy ran one-two in the polls, with Mr. Fil­lon a dis­tant third. Mr. Fil­lon was so ig­nored that, for ex­am­ple, a com­men­tary on the French pri­maries by the ex­cel­lent Christo­pher Cald­well ig­nored him com­pletely.

But, as has hap­pened of­ten in re­cent years (Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and David Cameron in 2015, Brexit and Don­ald Trump in 2016), the more con­ser­va­tive op­tion did far bet­ter than ex­pected. In a stunning sur­prise, Mr. Fil­lon won 44 per­cent of the vote, way ahead of Mr. Juppe with 29 per­cent and Mr. Sarkozy with 21 per­cent. (The other four can­di­dates won 7 per­cent of the vote.)

Mr. Fil­lon went on to crush Mr. Juppe in the sec­ond round, 66-34 per­cent. Mr. Fil­lon will likely win the first round of the gen­eral elec­tion and then win the runoff against ei­ther the So­cial­ist Party can­di­date or Marine Le Pen of the Na­tional Front. He will have of­fered a way for­ward be­tween the silly no­tion of a “happy iden­tity (re­ally)” for­warded by Mr. Juppe and the in­sur­gency of Ms. le Pen, which seeks “tem­po­rar­ily” to na­tion­al­ize the banks.

As­sum­ing Mr. Fil­lon stays true to his plat­form, his be­com­ing pres­i­dent has epochal im­por­tance for Europe. For the first time, a cen­trist politi­cian es­pouses a tra­di­tion­ally pa­tri­otic out­look, stand­ing up for in­dige­nous Euro­pean cul­ture and mores while op­pos­ing fur­ther largescale im­mi­gra­tion and ac­com­mo­da­tion to Is­lamism. This greatly dam­ages the in­sur­gent Na­tional Front, an in­ex­pe­ri­enced party re­plete with ec­cen­tric and of­ten left-wing views.

Mr. Fil­lon has bro­ken the Europewide taboo against a le­gacy party steal­ing the thun­der of an in­sur­gent party. If Mr. Fil­lon rides this tac­tic to vic­tory, he will chart a course for politi­cians of the cen­ter-right from Greece to Nor­way; al­ready, Mrs. Merkel has fol­lowed his lead with a dra­matic course change, call­ing for the burqa “to be for­bid­den.”

The tim­ing of these events is not for­tu­itous but fol­lows on two de­vel­op­ments: re­peated ma­jor acts of ji­hadi vi­o­lence in France and Mrs. Merkel’s 2015 de­ci­sion to al­low in un­counted numbers of un­vet­ted mi­grants. That de­ci­sion, which will likely be seen as a turn­ing point in Euro­pean his­tory, also helped fuel the spec­tac­u­lar rise of Nor­bert Hofer of the Free­dom Party of Aus­tria (FPO) nearly to the pres­i­dency of that coun­try, win­ning 49.7 per­cent of the vote in April and then 46.2 per­cent in De­cem­ber, both times run­ning against the Green Party’s for­mer leader.

Granted, Aus­tria has mi­nor im­por­tance and its pres­i­dency is largely cer­e­mo­nial, but the fact that an in­sur­gent party, the FPO, two times al­most reached the 50 per­cent mark shatters the con­sen­sus view that in­sur­gent par­ties can­not gather more than one-third of the vote. They can. Mr. Hofer’s near-vic­tory has im­mense im­pli­ca­tions, sug­gest­ing that if le­gacy par­ties do not steal the in­sur­gents’ thun­der in time, those in­sur­gents will even­tu­ally reach power on their own.

To­gether, then, the French and Aus­trian elec­tions sug­gest Euro­peans have two al­ter­nate paths to re­ject mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, Is­lamism, and un­ceas­ing im­mi­gra­tion: ei­ther by trans­form­ing le­gacy par­ties or sup­port­ing in­sur­gent par­ties.

Whether they will do so, in turn, de­pends mainly on two key de­vel­op­ments: the will­ing­ness of le­gacy cen­ter-right par­ties to adopt in­sur­gent party ideas, and the fre­quency and death toll of ji­hadi at­tacks.

The terra is be­com­ing more cog­nita.


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